- Beautiful design, Incredible sound quality, Apple AirPlay wireless streaming,
- Expensive, Less subtle than the Arcam rCube,
Review Price £499.95
Manufacturer: Bowers & Wilkins
For three years the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin reigned supreme as the connoisseurs' iPod dock of choice. In January the Arcam rCube took its title. Just three months later B&W wants it backâ€¦
The 'Zeppelin Air' is the company's weapon of choice. At first glance the it looks like little has changed for the original Zeppelin. The Air still has the same iconic stretched oval design that 'inspired' the TEAC Aurb and countless others, but inside it is revolution not evolution. The Air has updated drive units, up-rated amplification, improved Digital Signal Processing (DSP) and by far the biggest crowd pleaser: added AirPlay technology.
For who haven't come across AirPlay before, it is Apple's proprietary wireless streaming technology and it allows iPhones, iPods, Apple TV and iTunes itself to push media around the house wire-free. For Apple's audio products the big news is AirPlay is capable of delivering lossless sound quality and no adapters are required. AirPlay can also work in conjunction with multi-room environments allowing media to be delivered to multiple products around the house.
Out of the box the Air makes a dramatic first impression. The sweeping curves keep the same look at its predecessor and at 640 x 208 x 173mm it is exactly the same size. At 6.2Kg, however, is it a whole 1.3Kg lighter. Like the Zeppelin, the Air is very well made. The metallic back has gone to be replaced by love-it-or-hate-it piano black plastic, but it still feels like a premium product and arguably the more subtle colouring makes it classier.
Maanwhile the Air retains the same physical buttons for power and volume on the metal band around the centre of the dock and the dock connector itself, while perched, feels more solid than it looks. Inside you'll now find WiFi and along the back the Air has power, Ethernet, a USB port (for firmware updates), auxiliary and composite inputs and the simple pebble-shaped remote remains unchanged from the Zeppelin.
What does mark a significant change though is the sound qualityâ€¦